Bethan Rutter recalls when she “just didn’t feel right.
“I was extremely tired, and it wasn’t normal tiredness when you feel better after a good night’s sleep. I couldn’t concentrate, and my fitness levels plummeted because I wasn’t getting any exercise.”
That was five years ago, although Bethan believes she may have had M.E. - Myalgic Encephalomyelitis - as a student, putting the effects down to student lifestyle.
The condition is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
“I struggle to socialise, especially on a work day,” says the 32-year-old. “Sometimes I struggle to even make myself dinner when I’m going through a very bad patch. I can feel low about the limitations on my previously very active life.”
Bethan, of Walkley, is speaking during M.E. Awareness Month, highlighting an illness that affects 250,000 men, women and children in the UK.
Common symptoms include muscle pain, persistent exhaustion, poor concentration and memory problems, headache and digestive problems.
Sufferers are affected in different ways and to different degrees. The cause of M.E. is unknown and there is no cure.
Bethan, a dietician who works with kidney patients at the Northern General, was referred by her GP to the Sheffield M.E./CFS service.
“I can’t stress enough how much they helped. I have learned to appreciate what I can do and not focus on what I can’t do. I know my physical limitations which helps me to maintain a more constant energy level.”
Some people are given exercise therapy, some help in pacing their life better, she says. Bethan receives Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, “which helps me come to terms with it rather than fighting it”.
But she has had to cut down her working hours and adds: “M.E. can be a very debilitating illness, made more difficult by the attitude that others take towards you. Not everyone who looks well actually is well.
“Poor understanding from some friends has affected how I feel towards them. My partner no longer has a lively, fun person at home and he has to make allowances for how I feel physically.
“My mum worries about me and my employer has had to make changes in my working pattern to allow me to go part time.
“My colleagues may need to take on extra work when I’m unwell, can’t work at full capacity or take time off sick.”
The charity Action for M.E.3 is leading research as well as offering advice and information. Visit www.actionforme.org.uk.